I’m one of you. Long before my first article or big name interview and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stock car fan. So for that reason, my name doesn’t matter and neither does my photo. It’s more like we’re just sitting here in the grandstand before the race, talking about Dodges and NASCAR. Hey, you want a cold one? --JC
This Time, Close DOES Count
e done waited until after Talladega for this cuz we wanted to see if our Dodge Boys would turn things around over yonder in Alabama. As we all painfully know, they been shut out since the Great Mopar Massacre at Daytona in February. So, seeing how they was stronger than dirt in that plate race, it’s only right they shine when the Boys run the high banks again. Good theory, right?
Well, not so much. If you’re thinking Ryan Newman and his Alltel Charger could just pick up where he left off, you may not want to call your bookie just yet. Remember, the car he won Daytona with is no longer in the Penske inventory. Actually, it never left the track or the state of Florida. That’s cuz there’s this little line on the official Daytona 500 entry blank that says the winning ride goes straight from Victory Lane (after inspection) to Daytona USA just outside of turn four. There, everyone can Ohhh and Ahhh when they see the confetti, champagne, oil and flack damage on what was once a perfect paint job. It’ll finally head on home to North Carolina NEXT February. Of course, by then, it will be totally obsolete by racing standards so it will likely spend the rest of its life as a museum piece. After all, there is only one Daytona 500 winner.
That means ‘The Captain’ (Penske) had to pony up another speedway car for the remaining three restrictor plate races. Now, you can bet your last biscuit they got the recipe for what went into that winning car but remember, even with today’s computers and engineers, no two cars will ever act the same. Race cars are kinda like my ex wives. They each got their own personalities and you gots to learn that personality to get ‘em to do what you want. And yeah, sometimes they won’t listen to ya no matter what ya do.
And that brings us to another fact ‘bout how Dodge won Daytona. Kasey Kahne recently hipped us on that deal when he said, “The thing that we did at Daytona is that most of the Dodges got together. We don’t have the four-car teams that all the Gibbs and Hendrick cars have when they go together. What we did, it seemed like six or seven or eight Dodges got together and ganged up on the other cars. It worked out because we were working as a team versus individual teams. It worked in Daytona. Whether that happens again we’ll have to wait and see.”
As for Talladega, and going back to the land of restrictor plates, the Dodge boys have a small advantage over those other brands – but with some ‘IFs’. They may still have the physical advantage IF the others haven’t been thrashing their plate programs. They may have a slight psychological advantage by being the big dogs at Daytona. But by the end of practice, that advantage may go bye-bye IF the Dodges can’t get it up again. Now the good news. Ford still seems to be spending their time and bucks on the intermediate tracks (damn clever, I’d say, seeing as they are the bulk of the schedule) so they usually aren’t strong on the plate tracks. The Chivvies, always strong on both the plate tracks and intermediates ain’t fared too well on either this year. Will they get it together by Talladega? And those pesky Tie-Odas? Well, we’re thinkin’ they’re gonna be the wild cards of 2008. You just don’t know when they’ve found another secret or two in their motors or the new car. Yet another IF is if the Dodge teams will co-op with each other to beat down the other brands again. Will they or won’t they? Deal or no deal? Yep, all of this sets up Talladega as yet another wild and crazy race surrounded by an even bigger bunch of wild and crazy. (Have you ever been to Talladega? Those folks KNOW how to party!!!)
So, how’d the Boys do? In a word: dang good. They ganged up just like they did at Daytona, but had the door shut in their faces by the fickle finger of the yellow flag. As the laps wound down and it was anyone’s race, they set up their full court press. On the white flag lap, the screamin’ yellow Wrigleys Gum Dodge of Juan Montoya was running second and had a little passing in mind. Well, as we all know, when there’s a wreck on the last lap (much less two like this time) and the yellow comes out, that freezes the field and you can pick out the leader by him laughin’ so loud.
Despite my feelings of second place being about as useful as celebrity rehab, this done showed the Dodge Boys did their homework. This time it was kinda like they brought a gun to a gun battle, not like the rest of the year when they showed up carrying one of them plastic ‘Spork’ thingies. But – and there’s always a ‘but’ in racing – what about the rest of the races on the schedule? This was the second of four plate races and, yeah, they pushed into the top 12, but they’re gonna need to get off their butts to move any higher in the points, dig?
Another thing Talladega showed was that Juan Pablo Montoya is a boy who can get up on that steering wheel. Of all the Dodges, he was more than just best in class. He had a serious chance to snatch that puppy from the oh-so-strong Tie-Odas. He kept his nose up there all day, learned who was strong, jumped in their draft and moved on up better than the Jeffersons ever thought of. If you haven’t noticed it for yourself, Montoya is open for business. Maybe he’ll be the leader of the Dodge Boys this year and get ‘em to gang up on some other tracks. Hey, there’s an idea!